The Philadelphia 76ers had a season full of ups and downs one year ago. They started off the year with a bang followed by a disappointing streak in December against below .500 teams. Joel Embiid earned a starting spot at the All-Star Game, and by the time voting ended, Ben Simmons was arguably a snub. Markelle Fultz was out for most of the year. Post-break, they established themselves as a playoff team and ended the regular season with 16 straight wins, a 52-30 record and the third seed in the Eastern Conference.
Last year, the expectation going into the season was to hopefully make the playoffs. Despite their exit against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Semi-Finals, it’s clear now the Sixers are ahead of schedule. Anything outside of an Eastern Conference Finals appearance this year would be disappointing. Let’s take a look at how this year’s regular season could shape out stretch-by-stretch and how it could ultimately affect seeding.
Opening Up Strong (October 16th-November 14th) (10-6)
The Sixers have a decent opening schedule with the opportunity to win at least 10 of their first 16 games. They open the NBA season up in Boston on October 16th and then come home on the 18th to play the Chicago Bulls. The Sixers had one of the best home records in the NBA last season, so I’d bet on them at home against non-playoff teams in most situations here early on. Four of their losses could come in match-ups with the Celtics, Raptors, Pacers and Bucks all on the road, but if they steal one of these games, they’ll open up with at least 10 out of 16 in the win column.
Heading Into 2019 (November 16th-December 30th) (11-10)
This is where the Sixers lost steam last year and it could certainly happen again here. This stretch involves home games against the Jazz, the Cavaliers, and the Pelicans, and away games against the Spurs and Raptors. On the bright side, they also play the Knicks, Nets, and Pistons twice each during this period, all of whom they played against well last year. I believe the Sixers will lose the opener in Boston, get them back with a Christmas win, but then they close the year on the West Coast in Utah and Portland. If they can come out with at least 10 wins in these 21 games, that would be huge.
The Toughest Stretch (January 1st-March 2nd) (14-12)
The Sixers will bounce back after a tough holiday west-coast trip with some easy wins at home. Then starting on January 19th, this team will face their toughest six-game stretch of the season, which could result in six wins or six losses. They start with the Thunder, Rockets, and Spurs at home, followed by the Nuggets, Lakers, and Warriors on the road. All of these games are winnable but none will be easy. In this two month stretch, the Sixers also play the Lakers, Celtics and Warriors at home and the Pelicans and Thunder on the road. These will truly be the time to sink or swim.
Closing it Out (March 5th-April 10th) (12-7)
In this last stretch of the season, the toughest part of the schedule will be that eleven of the last nineteen games will be on the road. If every game in the last stretch was at home, they could easily end 15-4 or 16-3, but I think winning twelve of the nineteen games would be a good goal. The most important games for seeding down here are two against the Bucks, and one against the Pacers, Cavaliers and Celtics.
This Leaves the Sixers at 47-35 (and with a top-4 seed)
This may be a disappointing prediction for some, as most experts would pick the Sixers to win over fifty games again this year. Yet, this prediction is based not only on the Sixers talent but on the talent of the rest of the NBA. I predict the Raptors, Pacers, Cavs, and Heat will all take a step back in the win column. The Bucks and Wizards will be better, and I’ve already predicted on this site the bottom seven teams in the West will all improve from last year as well.
If the Sixers make significant improvements from the top to the bottom of the line-up, they could easily surpass my forty-seven win prediction. They are arguably a top-five team in the NBA; everyone just needs to step up and put in the work. No one will be taking them lightly and there are real expectations for greatness. It’s time to deliver.
Here are my predictions for the 18-19 Final Eastern Conference Standings
Do you agree?
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